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  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, taking a powerful stand against China in defending Hong Kong human rights.
  • Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of he bill last week and sent both sets of bills off to the president's desk for signature.
  • "I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement.
  • But he added that certain provisions in the bill would "interfere with the exercise of the President's constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the US."
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, taking a powerful stand in defending Hong Kong that is likely to put a strain on relations with China.

Both the House and Senate passed their own versions of the bill last week; the Senate version, which was passed in both houses, then headed to the president for signature.

The Senate bill would essentially require the State Department to ensure that the city's "One Country, Two Systems" agreement with China be upheld each year for the US government to continue to afford Hong Kong with special trade status.

It would also consider sanctions against people involved in human rights abuses against Hong Kong citizens and would ensure visa protections for protesters in the US.

The Senate bill was introduced in May by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been a vocal critic of Chinese policy and human-rights abuses, while the House version of the bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. It was passed in the House and is now in the Senate.

The president also signed a bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkely of Oregon which prohibits US exports of specified police equipment to Hong Kong.

"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people Hong Kong. They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all," Trump said in a statement.

But he added that certain provisions in the bill would "interfere with the exercise of the President's constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the US."

"My Administration will treat each of the provisions of the Act consistently with the President's constitutional authorities with respect to foreign relations."

China's foreign ministry last week condemned the Senate's passage of the bill and vowed to protect the country's national security.

Several senators who backed the legislation applauded Trump's decision.

"The US now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong's internal affairs," Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a statement.

Rubio also praised Hong Kong's recent local district elections, which saw unprecedented voter turnout and support for pro-democracy parties.

"Following last weekend's historic elections in Hong Kong that included record turnout, this new law could not be more timely in showing strong US support for Hong Kongers' long-cherished freedoms."

"I am proud of this bipartisan law that sends a strong message to the demonstrators in Hong Kong, the government of Hong Kong, as well as the Communist Party of China: the United States is not only watching, but stands with demonstrators as they march for their autonomy, for their democracy, and for their human rights," said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. "We now have stronger legislative tools to back up our a moral obligation to support Hong Kong's autonomy and hold China accountable for violations of human rights."

Protests began in June against proposed legislation that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to China, but have since widened to target Chinese encroachment and police brutality in the semi-autonomous city.

The US legislation follows a week of increased violence that spread to university campuses, culminating in a police siege of the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong in Hung Hom.

Police last week said that roughly 4,500 people have been arrested since protests began.

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